Police are investigating a private care home after “serious concerns” about the substandard care given to nearly 30 dementia patients in Nottingham.
Urgent inspections last week by the city council and social care regulator found neglected patients who were dirty and thirsty – triggering a referral to Nottingham police and replacement carers.
But on Saturday morning, in a move described as “shocking” and “totally unacceptable” by the Care Services Minister Norman Lamb, Autumn Grange residential home announced it would close within 48 hours.
The decision by the owners, Sherwood Rise Ltd, left Nottingham social services only hours to find suitable alternatives.
Neighbours were shocked to see scores of ambulances on Saturday night taking away residents to nearby homes. Moving people with dementia to new environments can be traumatising and even life threatening, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
The revelations come on the day David Cameron announced a new drive to improve early diagnosis of dementia in order to achieve better outcomes for sufferers. Two thirds of people in care homes have dementia and cases of degrading treatment, including powerful psychotropic drugs used to sedate residents, have caused major concern over recent years.
The Nottingham case highlights concerns about the way private care companies, large or small can desert vulnerable people and leave the state to pick up the pieces. Last year, local authorities had to ensure 31,000 elderly people did not suffer harm following the financial collapse of Southern Cross.
Only one in 10 care homes are now council or NHS run. Small family run businesses like this one, account for 43 per cent of the private sector, according to analysts Laing and Buisson, but large companies are expanding fast.
Sherwood Rise Ltd owns and operated the 52-bedded residential home in a leafy northern suburb of Nottingham, which is registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to provide care for people with dementia and diagnostic services.
Mr Yousaf Khan is registered as the person responsible for meeting safety and quality standards set-out in law. He has two dissolved companies, involved in the restaurant trade, behind him, according to Companies House.
The latest Sherwood Rise Ltd accounts filed to Companies House reveal that it has net-assets of £1.7million. It is a family business, incorporated in 1993, with the four directors and their immediate family the sole shareholders.
Peter Walsh from the patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents said: “It is totally unacceptable that vulnerable people can be disrupted in this way and leave the taxpayer to pick up the tab. If more and more care is to be provided by private businesses, there need to be more stringent checks on the people wanting to run them.”
The CQC had carried out three inspections of the homes earlier this year and issued one ‘warning notice’ because of persistent hygiene breaches, but there appeared to be signs of improvement back in May.
It has not been revealed who or what raised the alarm last week, but clearly the state of the home and the vulnerable resident led to emergency measures. The council brought its own care staff to ensure residents were safe and properly looked after, but then the owners pulled the plug.
Nottingham police were called on 28 October by council officials because of “serious concerns” about the standards of care. The Independent has been told this includes evidence of residents not being given adequate fluids and poor hygiene for people and equipment.
The police confirmed they were “scoping out” the details, but no arrests or interviews had yet taken place.
A former employee, who asked not to be named, said the home had been full as recently as 2010 when the quality of the care had been good.
But the business had been hit by a declining number of placements from local authorities which now prioritised care at home.
“The family are really saddened by what’s happened. Some of the residents had been there for years. They were part of the family,” she told The Independent.
Last month another home in Nottingham was closed down and 36 dementia patients rehoused after the CQC made an urgent application to Nottingham Magistrates to cancel Spring Lane Nursing Home’s registration.
Nottingham City Council’s Director of Adult Social Services Ian Curryer said: “The private provider’s unilateral decision to close the home was not in the best interests of the frail and elderly people in their care and was in breach of their contract with us, leaving us with little option but to find alternative accommodation for the residents.
“We are now conducting a safeguarding investigation, in conjunction with the police and the Care Quality Commission.”
The Independent was unable to reach any Sherwood Rise Ltd directors for comment.